President Trump in a June phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping promised that he would remain silent over the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong while trade talks were still ongoing, according to a CNN report.
The promise is in stark contrast to the U.S.’s long-running stance on advocating for human rights in China.
Like phone calls that Trump had with Ukraine, Saudi Arabia and Russia, records of the phone call with Xi were also reportedly transferred to a highly-classified, codeword-protected system.
Trump’s agreement with Xi reportedly led the State Department to cancel two U.S. speaking engagements of Kurt Tong, then the U.S. general counsel in Hong Kong.
The Financial Times was first to report Trump’s promise.
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told the Times that she believed the report “was based off of anonymous reports, and that’s not something that we ever validate here at the State Department. I don’t see much truth to that.”
Trump has deflected when asked about the protests in Hong Kong and the U.S. position.
On Aug. 1, he told reporters “something is probably happening with Hong Kong because when you look at, you know, what’s going on, they’ve had riots for a long period of time.”
“And I don’t know what China’s attitude is,” he continued.
Trump tweeted a similar sentiment two weeks later.
I know President Xi of China very well. He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people. He is also a good man in a “tough business.” I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2019